Best Plugins for Mixing Vocals

In this article, I go through the plugins I use in almost every project to shape the vocals and make sure they’re defined, intelligible, and upfront.

The order in which these plugins are listed doesn’t represent the importance I attribute to them, how frequently I use them or the order in which I insert them on a chain; it’s purely alphabetical.

Dynamics

Fabfilter Pro-C 2

This compressor is a safe pick for most tasks, and it does a really good job on vocals.

It features a dedicated detection algorithm, and I mostly use it starting with the “Total Control” and “Upfront Vocal” presets.

Also, if you crank the Hold all the way up and turn the attack down, it turns into a volume rider (that applies only gain reduction, of course).

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/1756?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Native Instruments Transient Master

I know a transient shaper might look odd in this list, but it works. It can revive squashed vocals, but the main use I make of it is turning up the sustain to increase the average volume in a natural-sounding way.

Waves RVox

This compressor is featured in so many studios for two reasons: it sounds great, and it’s simple to use. What makes its workflow appealing is that it has no time settings, making you focus only on the gain reduction and the color imparted by it.

Waves Vocal Rider

I’ve always heard contrasting opinions on this plugin, and I’m among those who like it.

It requires some time to get used to, but it can really be a time saver. It doesn’t entirely substitute the practice of adjusting the clip gain, but it can tremendously diminish the time spent doing it.

The only thing you want to pay attention to is not having soft passages being boosted too much.

Wavesfactory Trackspacer

This plugin allows you to make the vocal fit in busy contexts by creating a mirrored EQ curve on the sound that’s competing with it.

It plays an important role, not a crucial one, but it still gives the final 10% that makes the vocal sound naturally upfront.

It’s easy to overdo this effect, but as soon as you learn how to dose it, it‘ll become a valuable tool.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/3259?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Frequencies

Fabfilter Pro-DS

My go-to when it comes to de-essing.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/923?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

This EQ is a staple in general. I mainly use it for its dynamic EQ feature. Sometimes I use it in combination with the de-esser to fine-tune annoying sibilances.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/4949?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Native Instruments Solid EQ

Nothing too special about this EQ, I like the sound and the interface, but I don’t exclude it can be swapped with something else.
I mostly use it to control the tone with wide curves in the midrange and some air boost.

oeksound Soothe 2

This plugin is unique when it comes to fixing annoying resonances. It’s not a solution to bad mixing, and it also has a learning curve, but it can de-harsh some problematic sources.

Slate Digital Fresh Air

Another plugin to boost the clarity and presence of vocals. It’s nice to listen to how different the Mid and High air knobs sound. Usually, when dialed at 15/20, it does a wonderful job without sounding too invasive.

Tone Empire Neural Q

All I do with this plugin is boost the high end by 3 to 6 dB. I know it might sound like an exaggerated tweak, but the way this EQ works makes it sound incredibly natural.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/9261?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Distortion

iZotope Ozone Exciter

I use this plugin almost all the time when it comes to make the vocal more present. My go-to setting is a band from 3kHz and above, with the amount set to taste, making the vocal shine through the mix without being too harsh. I occasionally boost the mids and low mids to add some warmth.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/9606?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Process Audio Spicerack

Perfect for when it comes to warming up the vocals. If you have several takes, you can warm them up all at once through multiple instances with the handy remote control feature.

The Tube sound is my go-to distortion type for vocals.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/9803?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Reverb

Native Instruments RC24

Been using it for a long time, and it’s been love at first listen. The plus of this plugin is the number of presets you can try. It’s my first pick for creating large rooms in general. The visual panel it features helps understand how the reverb’s behaving.

Soundtoys Little Plate

After toying with several plate emulations, this one sounded the way I wanted while also presenting itself with a simple interface. Perfect for adding an ambience that still retains the clarity that I look after in my vocal mixing process.

Get it here:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/4715?a_aid=63061174d3064 

Chains

Cradle The Spirit

This plugin emulates the vocal chain from the renowned Pop producer Louis Bell.

The good thing is that it sounds great, but controls on it and what’s happening beneath it aren’t much clear, so it takes some time to know how to handle it.
The order of processors within the plugin can’t be changed.

You either want to use it at the beginning of the chain to set the character right from the start or, even better, at the end to give the final lift you might be missing.

It features a vocal rider, a compressor, a shelving EQ, a doubler, and a plate/room reverb.

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